“I grew up in a conservative church and small town in the seventies,” said Cecil Blanton. “I loved Jesus and thought He loved me. But I really struggled as I got older and realized I was attracted to men. Both the lack of an emotional relationship with my dad and an instance of childhood sexual abuse from a female really affected my sexuality, but I didn’t make these connections until much later in life.
“In college, I was still going to church as I’d grown up doing, but I completely hid my lifestyle. I felt if I were to admit my feelings, I’d be ostracized by my church. I never came out to my family. As a result of my sin and hiding, I faced a lot of depression. I became codependent in friendships and relationships because I was searching for affirmation in people.
“In my thirties, I came to a point where I felt like God didn’t love me. I kept saying to God, ‘You made me this way. You made me gay. Why shouldn’t I live this lifestyle?’ I stopped pursuing Him. I left the church completely and began searching for happiness elsewhere, while depression and suicidal thoughts continued in my mind.
“In 2006, I hit what I thought was the lowest point in my life with my depression. I withdrew from everyone and isolated myself. The only people I associated with were people at work and my immediate family. I spent a lot of my free time at a bookstore, reading and listening to music almost every day after work. Eventually, I befriended a manager of the store; I had no idea how the Lord would use this friendship later in life.
“I moved to Boston with my job a few years later. I saw it as a great opportunity to start a new life, make new friends, and leave Dallas behind. But the next two years in Boston were the worst time of my life. I’m a very outgoing, social person, and I thought I wouldn’t have any problems making new friends. To my surprise, it was such a culture shock moving from Texas to the Northeast. I hated my job, I hated my life, and it all came to a head about a year and a half in.
“I was done. I didn’t want to live anymore. One night, I drank a lot of alcohol and took a lot of pills, fully expecting to not wake up the next morning. But I did. I was disoriented and had no idea what was going on. I didn’t realize I had fallen and deeply cut my head, but somehow stumbled my way to work. One of my coworkers noticed that something was terribly wrong. Paramedics were called, and I was rushed to the hospital.
“When I explained to the paramedics that I tried to take my own life, they admitted me into a mental health unit for a week and later was assigned a psychiatrist when I was released. In one of our sessions, the psychiatrist asked me if I believed in a higher power.
“His question got me really thinking more about the faith I’d claimed my entire life. I prayed and asked God to bring me back to Texas and promised I would dedicate my life to Him. In just a few weeks, a door opened for me to come back to Texas with my company.
“When I moved back, my friend from the bookstore reached out to catch up. We talked for a long time, and toward the end of our conversation, he invited me to Watermark. I hadn’t come out as gay to my friend at this point, but I knew I wanted to find a church. When I told him about my lifestyle, he wasn’t judgmental and assured me Watermark was different than what I’d experienced in church before.
“I only attended Watermark once, but a few months later, I befriended a Watermark Member at a fitness boot camp. We became fast friends, and he continually invited me to The Porch and Sunday services. He made me feel so welcome and introduced me to many new friends. After a few months of regularly attending, I realized this was exactly where the Lord wanted me to be.
“Through God’s people in re:generation and my community group, the Lord did some major work in my heart and made big changes in my life. God opened my eyes to things I hadn’t given much thought to, and I watched as He continued to transform my life and the lives of the men around me. As I learned more about God, the gospel, and the fall of mankind, I saw that this was not the life He meant for me. Sin is not the life He meant for anyone when He first created the universe.
“Later, God did even more in my heart when I went through re:generation again as a leader. I was finally able to confront and admit the fact that I was sexually abused when I was a child. While it only happened once, I realized the long-term effects of my sexual abuse as I pieced together parts of my life. God gave me the strength, courage, and forgiveness to reach out to the abuser, make amends, and find freedom.
“When I think of what the Lord has done for me over the years, I am so thankful I have found freedom from so many of my struggles (2 Corinthians 3:17).
“I was about 51 when I surrendered my life to Christ (Luke 9:23). This is the story God wrote for me. When I was running away from Him, He was pursuing me the whole time. I tried to do life on my own, and I couldn’t. My entire life I was ashamed, but I am free now – all because of what He's done for me.”